On Monday, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), Mothers & Others for Clean Air (MOCA) and the University of Georgia (UGA) hosted a workshop and air quality demonstration in Athens, GA. The event was held as part of a $1.7 million stimulus grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to Athens-Clarke County (ACC), University of Georgia (UGA), and Washington County to install pollution control devices (retrofits) to reduce toxic emissions from diesel transit buses and municipal vehicles. MOCA and SACE are leading the project’s outreach and education efforts.
Diesel exhaust contains particulate matter, black carbon, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and more than 40 hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) – all of which are dangerous to human health, especially to the developing bodies of children. The fine particles in diesel soot are so small that they penetrate deep into the lungs and get into the blood stream. Breathing diesel exhaust can contribute to both chronic and acute human health problems such as asthma attacks, reduced lung function, lung disease, cancer and even premature death. Analysis based on EPA’s most recent National Air Toxics Assessment data concluded that diesel exhaust poses a cancer risk that is 7 times greater than all 181 air toxics studied combined.
The University of Georgia installed the first retrofit on a garbage truck last week. It was retrofit with a flow thru filter, which is recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency to be a level 2 pollution control device, achieving at least a 50% reduction in particulate matter emissions.
As part of the day’s events, our friends at the Clean Air Task Force demonstrated to participants the effectiveness of the technology to reduce levels of harmful black carbon soot emissions. Based on preliminary testing, the truck’s diesel soot levels are approximately cut by half resulting in measurable improvements in air quality for the communities where these vehicles operate.
For the past eight years, the Clean Air Task Force has conducted multiple field studies investigating the effectiveness of diesel emissions controls in reducing exposure to particulate air pollution in and around trucks, buses, and heavy equipment. Understanding the technology’s operation is critical to determining the most effective types of retrofits available for specific applications.
Twenty-seven Georgia counties currently fail federal standards for fine particulates, so projects like this are important in helping ensure we breathe healthier air. When completed, the project is expected to result in the reduction of 0.50 tons of particulate matter per year, as well as 13 tons of hydrocarbons and 91 tons of carbon monoxide.
This project is just one of numerous projects that SACE has supported around the Southeast. We will be hosting another workshop later this year. Stay tuned.